THREE Ripon Grammar School sixth formers have won awards in a highly competitive national essay writing competition.
Up against entries from thousands of students across the country, Sam Ashton, Mia Barnett and Alex Partridge were selected by the prestigious New College of the Humanities in London, which was founded by one of Britain’s most prominent philosophers, AC Grayling.
Alex Partridge was a finalist in the economics section for his essay, in which he looked at the differences in wealth in both the UK and wider world exacerbated by the pandemic.
The 17-year-old, from Knaresborough, who hopes to study economics at university and is learning to fly aircraft out of school, said he was inspired to write the essay after reading about high inflation and vaccination rates across the world.
Mia Barnett, from Hunton, near Bedale, was a finalist in the art history section. The 18-year-old, who plans to study fine art or history of art at university, wrote about the decolonisation of museums and galleries.
"Discovering more about who has been written out of history is something I am really interested in as I hope to work as a curator," she said.
Sam Ashton, 17, was highly commended, also in the economics section, for his essay on how the pandemic has impacted inequalities.
The Year 13 student, from Winksley, who plans to study theology and philosophy at university and enjoys football and DJ-ing, said he wanted to tackle a socially relevant topic.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted inequalities?
By Alex Partridge
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on inequalities around the world as evidenced through several factors, including the lack of vaccines available in the developing world. This has had the effect of prolonging the pandemic and thus heightening inequalities as coronavirus continues to rip through these nations with little vaccine availability or uptake, resulting in new, more damaging variants emerging. Even within more prosperous nations like the UK the gap between the richest and poorest has become greater during the pandemic as lockdowns caused mass job losses even with a furlough scheme in place. This rise in unemployment has led to a loss of productivity within the UK and with that an eight-point seven percent decrease in GDP between the fourth quarter of 2019 and first quarter of 2021, far greater than many other nations in the G20. This could potentially lead to a larger reduction in quality of life in the UK compared to other generally similarly performing economies. The impact of Covid-19 on inflation both within the UK and elsewhere is also a great one as figures reach highs not seen since the early 1990s potentially leading to cost-of-living crisis for those on lower incomes.
A major impact of Covid-19 on inequalities is the global distribution of vaccinations around the world and the subsequent impact on the countries with less access to them. Across the world vaccination rates differ greatly; from the United Kingdom where 71.5 percent of the population have been double vaccinated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where only zero-point two percent of the population have been. This causes a serious disparity between the ability of these nations to put the pandemic behind them and resume full and normal economic activities causing the gap in economic performance between them to further increase. The major problem caused by these vastly differing rates also lie within the already existing healthcare differences between countries. This is in part as the potential for an overwhelming of said systems is far greater in the country with less vaccines, exacerbating an already existent inequality between them and potentially resulting in a far less productive economy as less people can work and are stuck without the ability to recover from Covid-19. This loss of productivity causes further problems in a weaker economy as they struggle to increase growth and expand their production possibility frontiers, leading to stagnation. This also reduces the nation’s ability to purchase the vaccinations needed to reduce the effects of the virus which evidence suggests is likely to cause a vicious circle from which countries such as Burundi are unable to escape from. These differences are also likely to cause a regional or racial divide of which is already evident in the UK. The large differences in vaccination rate between racial demographics within the UK are of significant issue as they leave those in the black and Asian communities, who are already at higher risk to the serious effects of Covid-19, with an even greater chance of catching it and becoming seriously impacted. These effects can lead to greater divide in income between different groups as those who have been negatively impacted are less likely to be in a fit state to work and support any possible families they have. The result of which is a more uneven distribution of wealth than before the pandemic hit.
Another problem caused by Covid-19 that has led to an increase in inequalities is the loss of jobs during nationwide lockdowns causing those with little savings to struggle greater than the rest and leaving them in a worse place financially than they were before the pandemic. The reduction of economic output during the first lockdown in the UK was massive as the GDP fell a staggering twenty-five percent between February and April 2020. This decrease in output led to many companies having to implement large scale clear-outs and redundancies with a record four hundred and two thousand in the third quarter of 2020. Many of these job losses will have been incurred in lower paying employment, as sectors such as food and drink remained mainly closed for around three or four months in the UK. This large loss of jobs is despite the furlough scheme the UK government put in place to protect jobs by paying eighty percent of the wages of most lower income employees. This job retention scheme had a significant impact and resulted in reduced redundancies. However, as it didn’t cover the entirety of an employee’s wage people on lower income bands still ended up losing out as they were forced to try and survive on twenty percent less than they had previously. The result of this was a rise in the use of economic assistance such as benefits or food banks indicating a clear rise in poverty across the UK. The number of people claiming universal credit increased from 3 million to 6 since the beginning of the pandemic whilst the UK’s Gini coefficient (the measure of income inequality in a country) rose 1.8 percent for the year ending in 2020 compared to the previous year. This also indicates an increase in the gap between rich and poor in the UK since the start of the pandemic. The feeling of resentment felt by those who had to work throughout the pandemic and its lockdowns may cause divides as well. This is as those who had to work, often in low paying jobs, feel they have been exposed to far more risks than necessary and so the ability of office workers to continue much of their work from home may well have caused tension. Overall, the increase in the wealth gap caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has been a large one but without government intervention it could have been far greater. This is due in part to job retention schemes as well as a temporary increase in universal credit that have helped keep it from growing as much as it may have done.
One of the other ways the pandemic has helped to increase inequality, especially within the UK, is through rising inflation rates caused primarily by increased government spending and higher costs for firms. The inflation rate as of January 2022 has reached five-point four percent, a high not seen since 1992 when it topped seven-point one percent during the recession. This rise has led to an increased cost of living which has acutely affected those in lower income brackets as household bills such as electricity have risen by around nineteen percent. Gas prices have also increased by up to twenty-eight percent, these increases affect low-income households to a greater extent as a larger proportion of their income is spent on bills causing further problems for those in such a situation. The impact of inflation will only continue to grow because of firms still recovering from the massive losses caused by previous lockdowns and loss of business as the Bank of England predicts inflation to keep rising until April when it is expected to hit around six percent. That inflation is at this level helps to illustrate the stark impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the UK’s financial state (for reference inflation only reached five-point one percent during the global recession of 2009). For the poorest in the UK the rising inflation and energy prices will lead to the spending an even greater proportion of their wages on energy: up from 8.5 percent of their income to 12 percent. Helping steepen the divide between the rich who are easily able to afford these rises, and the poor of which more and more will be pushed into or towards poverty. Any further government intervention would be unlikely to solve the problem as policies such as an increase of universal credit would probably not help as the rise would be minimal in real terms and would also escalate government spending, therefore causing a further growth in inflation.
Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic has helped enlarge inequalities both a global and national level, affecting countries and individual people. The greatest impact on the gap between rich and poor however is probably the massive differences between vaccination rates of various countries as the countries with lower rates are unable to return to their pre-pandemic levels of production and economic activity. This leads to a widening of the gap between nations such as Burundi with lower rates and the UK which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The ability for coronavirus to continue to spread in these countries also results in a greater chance of new, more dangerous variant mutating which only exacerbates the problem as it becomes harder and harder to escape from Covid-19’s grasp. The inequalities present in many sub-Saharan African nations are already far larger than anything present in the UK and so the inability to try to tackle these issues as all the resources available are being used to fight coronavirus means they remain in place. The growing wealth divide in the UK is also of significant concern as it has been rising for almost a decade and coronavirus has simply accentuated the issue. However, partly because of the UK’s excellent vaccination programme the problems caused are more easily manageable as the UK is in a better position to return to life as it was before the pandemic. The impacts of inflation will hopefully be partly solved as companies resolve the extra costs they incurred during the pandemic and prices return to a more stable level. As well as that many of the large job losses incurred will disappear as life returns to a more normal state and so employees are required again within a, once again, flourishing hospitality sector.
Is it time for museums and galleries to decolonise their collections, and if so, how should they go about it?
By Mia Barnett
The colonisation of countries internationally is an integral but infamous part of our world history, Britain being one of the main perpetrators along with France, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands to name a few. From India to North America, Asia, Africa, Australia and more, the British Empire alone at its peak covering a quarter of the Earth’s surface. It helped the planet diversify and different people to discover new ways of life but unfortunately this wasn’t the reason for this movement. In taking total control of these nations and turning them into almost satellite states, re-educating their people in belief their way was the right way. With this merge of cultures, many artefacts from colonised nations were taken by colonisers to be displayed in their museums and galleries. As empires crumbled and movements emerged such as the recent Black Lives Matter, former colonised nations ask for former colonisers to take account, joined by those from marginalised communities in a call for justice and recognition. Part of this process is to decolonise museums and galleries to represent the true context or repatriateof its collections of stolen artworks, artefacts and objects, sacred to its rightful owners in the former colonies. In recent years, Greeks have been calling for the return of the Parthenon’s marbles and the Egyptians for the Rosetta stone, both from British museums. But what does this actually mean for the institutions housing these collections and is it necessary?
One reason for the decolonizing of museums and galleries is the offence colonial artefacts and artworks may have on individuals from marginalised communities and cultures when not contextualised for the modern standard. Pitt Rivers Museum in London has attempted to combat this through rethinking language used in its public displays and galleries concerning colonial artefacts, removing derogatory language from labels that display them. They claim, ‘The intention of the project is not to destroy any of these unfortunate archives, but to in fact activate and mobilise them to address some of the problems that lie at the root of racialised stereotypes and other problematic systemic colonial legacies that linger in the present.’ (2020) which is a crucial to the point of decolonialisation; we have to reconsider how we present things to people in public displays to ensure its inclusive, but we cannot erase the past and so these artefacts must be kept for scrutiny and mindful research purposes only. This, as well as making those uncomfortable with the language feel more at ease when visiting the museum, it also prevents the language being used out of context for hurtful reasons. The actions of the Pitt Rivers Museum are crucial to starting to react against discrimination through education and cultural exhibits.
By decolonising, we can actually learn more about pieces than we would’ve known before. Many galleries and museums have started working with people with backgrounds and heritage of marginalised groups in respective to the artefacts and artworks they are aiming to understand and showcase, rather than relying on experts and institutions. Museums Association (2020) say ‘It gives institutions the opportunity to value new expertise and insight, build meaningful relationships with people inside and outside of the museum, and enables informed and inclusive decision-making.’ A case study on the ‘Reframing Picton’ project at National Museum Cardiff focuses on the portrait of Sir Thomas Picton by Martin Archer Shee on display at the museum. The information on Picton at the museum explains his fatality at Waterloo and his status as a national hero but fails to mention the cruel nature of his governorship in Trinidad and treatment of its people. A Sub Saharan youth advisory panel was enlisted to collaborate with curators and the museum in order to present Picton in a post-colonial reality, therefore enhancing the context of the portrait and giving more depth to the museum’s collection. By gaining knowledge and understanding from people of marginalised heritage as seen in this example, we gain insight and more valuable information than what could be taught or presented to us by a someone without the experience. Those who understand an artefact or artwork through experience hold more emotional and personal information, opening a new meaning to an object. This is vital to decolonising museums and galleries because of this reason.
Decolonisation is important for respecting the communities of which Western museums have artefacts from. The Pitt Rivers Museum has a collection of shrunken heads or tsantsa from the Shuar people which historically have been some of their most famous artefacts. As the tsantsa are deemed as sacred, the museum as part of their decolonisation effort removed them from display as well as other human remains from its ‘Treatment of Dead Enemies’ exhibit because of their ethical, religious and cultural implications. The museum says (2020) ‘Over the summer of 2020, a team at the Museum carefully removed 120 human remains from open display, including the well-known South American tsantsa (shrunken heads), Naga trophy heads from NE India and the mummy of an Egyptian child. All items have now been moved into storage.’. The heads where most likely traded for guns during colonial occupation between 1884 and 1936 in Ecuador and South America with the ancestors of these indigenous people not understanding the result of the trade. The museum’s decision to take this off show and maintain them in storage is a display of how institutions can listen to the wishes of former colonies and respect them.
Decolonizing museums and galleries can not only make artefacts more valuable in understanding imperial and cultural history but also improve diplomatic relations between former colonised and coloniser nations. An example of this in action is the Savoy-Sarr report, researched and published by Felwine Sarr and Bénédicte Savoy on request of President Macron of France in 2018. The report planned for the restitution of Sub-Saharan African objects and artworks of which are sacred to its people that had been unrightfully stolen during the area’s period as a French colony, mostly within the 19th century age of imperialism. This was focused of the ; secondly, objects that may have colonial links (or links that could arguably be tagged as colonial, such as tea or coffee); and lastly, objects with no clear colonial links, but that still could have had a problematic history through its donors and/or provenance.’ . Although this may have worked for the collection she was working on, it’s difficult to put every situation in a box. As there are different types of artefacts, artworks and their circumstances in which they link to colonisation, different actions need to be used in each process. As seen within these case studies, decolonisation works best when the former colonies lead the way. These people have a better understanding about these artefacts and artworks as well as how they would like them to be presented and where. It is not for former coloniser to primarily decide how decolonisation takes place; in fact, this would be ironic and negate the point of the process, destroying the diplomatic healing element of it. Had the Savoy-Sarr Report been more cooperative with governments, committees and people of the Sub-Saharan nations, maybe it could’ve been carried out more effectively and quicker. It is clear this is the route we must take in order to decolonise museums and galleries of former coloniser nations.
Cassan, C. (2019) ‘The Sarr-Savoy Report & Restituting Colonial Artefacts’, Centre for art law, 31 January. Available at: https://itsartlaw.org/2019/01/31/sarr-savoy-report/ (Accessed:23 January 2022)
CCP Staff (2019) ‘Savoy-Sarr Report on African Art Restitution: A Summary’, Cultural Property News, 30 January. Available at: https://culturalpropertynews.org/the-savoy-sarr-report-for-president-macron-a-summary/ (Accessed: 23 January 2022)
‘Critical changes to displays as part of the decolonisation process: Internal Review of Displays and Programming from an Ethical Perspective sees installation of new displays and the removal of human remains, including popular ‘shrunken heads.’’ (2020), Pitt Rivers Museum. Available at: https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/critical-changes (Accessed: 26 January 2022)
‘Decolonising Scotland’s Design history’ (2022), V&A Dundee. Available at: https://www.vam.ac.uk/dundee/articles/decolonising-our-galleries (Accessed: 26 January 2022)
de Souza, I. (2021) ‘Decolonisation of the museum collection’, St Andrews Heritage Museum and Garden, 25 January. Available at: https://standrewsmuseum.com/decolonisation-museum-collection/ (Accessed: 18 January 2022)
Noce, V. (2019) ‘France retreats from report recommending automatic restitutions of looted African artefacts: Suggestions from controversial Savoy-Sarr report were all-but buried at a conference held in Paris’, The Art Newpaper,5 July. Available at: https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2019/07/05/france-retreats-from-report-recommending-automatic-restitutions-of-looted-african-artefacts (Accessed: 26 January 2022)
‘Our statement on Decolonisation’ (2020), Museums Association. Available at: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/decolonising-museums/our-statement-on-decolonisation/# (Accessed 26 January 2022)
‘Social Justice: A case study in the Reframing of Picton project at National Museum Cardiff’, Museums Association, 2020. Available at: https://www.museumsassociation.org/campaigns/learning-and-engagement/social-justice-2/ (Accessed:23 January 2022)
‘The Size of the British Empire’ (2022), Royal Museums Greenwich. Available at: https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/size-british-empire (Accessed: 26 January 2022)
Van Broeckhoven, L., Thompson-Odlum, M. ‘Labelling Matters-Reviewing the Pitt Rivers Museum's use of language for the 21st century’, Pitt Rivers Museum. Available at: https://www.prm.ox.ac.uk/labelling-matters (Accessed: 23 January 2022)
 Repatriate- to send someone or something back to its country of origin.
 Or Elgin marbles by Phidias from the Acropolis in Athens.
 The piece of granodiorite with a decree given in Memphis, Egypt inscribed in three languages, one being hieroglyphics making is essential to deciphering them.
 Known for ill treatment of his slaves. Most notably the torture of a 14-year-old girl who he’d accused of theft and was hung her wrists from scaffolding (picketing). He was also known for burning slaves alive and decapitating them as well as other forms of torture.
 Particularly from Benin.
 Thomas Picton’s portrait may fall into this category.
 Or mid-18th century linen from East-coast of Scotland sold and used in large quantities to clothe slaves.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted inequalities?
By Sam Ashton
To answer this question effectively and successfully, one must unpack the term ‘inequalities’ and consider the different forms of inequality suffered by many in the world of today. ‘Inequalities’ could span from that of income or wealth inequality, so-called ‘economic inequality’ to the inequality experienced by many who do not have the same access as others to certain opportunities, so-called ‘societal inequality’. Coronavirus has affected millions of lives and has also not failed to affect the economy; a decline in GDP of 9.9% in 2020 in the UK
Primarily, the COVID-19 pandemic left many businesses un-able to function profitably due to a lack of revenue owing to a shortage of clients and customers, a consequence of country-wide lockdowns imposed by the UK government. This affected numerous businesses and sole traders, with many suffering redundancy and loss of income. Many of these workers held specialised roles requiring skillsets that were largely untransferable to other lines of work, contributing to the problem of factor immobility. Those who lacked certain skills due to having such a specialised line of work faced the negatives of occupational immobility and those unable to move and find a new job suffered from geographical immobility. This broadened the range of economic inequality, with many workers who before the pandemic had a stable, regular income faced uncertainty regarding their next wage. Thus, enduring greater inequality as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated measures. Oxfam typically releases a report on global inequality at the start of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, in this report it stated “160 million more people have been pushed into poverty”, whilst “a new billionaire created almost every day during this pandemic”
Notwithstanding the above, COVID-19 also impacted inequalities indirectly. During lockdown, many reflected upon their lifestyles, deeming their somewhat restrictive homes unsuitable. The importance of happy homelife, with a spacious garden or outside area for example, at the utmost importance. Many sacrificed jobs or previous lifestyles, to move away and find a new homelife in what they perceive as a more suitable home. This significant increase in demand, and fixed supply (due to houses being fixed capital and unable to suddenly increase in supply) has caused house prices to soar. With places such as Richmond experiencing a 29 per cent increase in price in a year
During the lockdown, the supply of jobs fell, with industries such as events and hospitality being unable to function due to the lockdown rules and enforced social distancing. Therefore, the supply of new jobs fell short, unable to meet the demand from people out of work, many left desperate for a source of income due to redundancies or insufficient funding from the furlough scheme. The seasonal employment usually offered by businesses operating in the hospitality sector was not available due to COVID-19 measures, further adding to a rising unemployment figure and corresponding economic inequality caused. Yet, as COVID-19 measures were wound-down, demand for labour increased. With many businesses barely managing to remain viable during lockdown, getting back to ‘normal’ was paramount. To cater for the increased footfall and sales, due to COVID-19 measures being scaled back; labour was needed. This can be seen as a positive for those able to obtain employment and for those who were able to live on the comparatively low income provided by this employment. However, it is not a perfect situation and inequality is still rife. Those who previously held highly skilled employment, for example specialised lines of work, found themselves misallocated; unable to pursue their previous career and now taking up jobs in different industries and sectors, the hospitality industry being a paradigm example. This also created a problem for businesses which invested into expensive fixed capital (e.g. new machinery) before the pandemic, and yet during the lockdown, they lacked the variable factor of production: the human workforce. Consequently, these large purchases will have heavily impacted businesses balance sheets, with many writing down these costs as losses. Some businesses losses being so damaging, that bankruptcy, liquidation and closure have been the only option. This is yet another contributing factor to the rising problem of unemployment during the pandemic, compounding inequality.
Finally, yet another effect COVID-19 has had on inequalities is the high infection rates in parts of the UK in which there tend to be more people per house. Those that cannot afford more properties or larger properties and living spaces tend to live in cramped living conditions with some households housing three generations of a family. And so, in these cramped living conditions, if COVID-19 were to infect one of the inhabitants, it would be no surprise for the others in the house to also fall ill. This can and did lead to the death of many, most upsettingly so, the vulnerable who had no choice but to live in an affected area. This can be argued to be put down to the unequal distribution of income and opportunity in certain areas of the UK, leading to families having lower incomes than other areas. It is areas like Bradford, the areas which suffer from structural unemployment, which were massively affected by the pandemic. COVID-19 has made undoubtedly, the structural problems and inequality felt by this area clear.
To conclude, it can be clearly seen that COVID-19 dramatically affected inequalities such as that of economic inequality and social inequality; directly or indirectly, through the catastrophic levels of infection rates in certain areas to the exacerbating of factor immobility throughout the UK. Throughout this essay the effects of the pandemic can be seen to have clearly worsened the inequalities throughout the world, the previously mentioned Oxfam report resonates deeply, “lower incomes for the world's poorest contributed to the death of 21,000 people each day,” whilst “the world's 10 richest men have more than doubled their collective fortunes since March 2020”
WORD COUNT: 1650 (excluding citations and bibliography)
By Sam Ashton, Ripon Grammar School
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